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What I Learned at Sundance 2013: The Indie Business Lives (Video)

At Sundance 2013 I learned that the independent movie business is alive and well and evolving rapidly before our eyes

At Sundance 2013 I learned that the independent movie business is alive and well and evolving rapidly before our eyes.

Among other signals — including a dozen-plus acquisitions of movies at the festival — a panel convened by TheWrap of three veteran indie directors and producers debating with digital-era leaders suggested that the current and future business looks exciting.

But don’t blink too often. It’s all happening with dizzying speed.  In the past year, two of the companies on the panel — Slated, which offers equity financing to film projects, and Indieflix, which offers digital distribution — pivoted to offer entirely new business models.  

Also see: Sundance 2013: TheWrap Industry Panel on How to Make and Sell Your Film (Photos)

In the video excerpt below,  director Lynn Shelton (“Touchy Feely”) defends the value of the theatrical experience.  In response, Chris Williams, the chief development officer of the fast-rising Maker Studios, calls such old-school thinking “vanity,” and points out that young people by the millions are watching short-form entertainment on YouTube.

They spoke to a packed house of young filmmakers and producers at The Claim Jumper on Main Street in Park City.

Despite the disagreement, both sides move ever closer to rapprochement, and it’s only a matter of time — and not too long at that — before some young film student melds the ethos of Sundance with the mass scale and short attention span of YouTube.

Shelton insisted: “I will fight tooth and nail for as long as I possibly can for my film to be seen in a theater. And you can call it vanity, I don’t care. I just know in my heart it’s a completely different film” when watched with a group of people.

Also read: Sundance 2013: Are Filmmakers Vain or Nostalgic? The Digital Distribution Dilemma

Indieflix CEO Scilla Andreen unveiled a new type of monetization for film with what she calls an “RPM” model, paying filmmakers revenue-per-minute of watched video. Her company has amassed several thousand indie films, and offers them for a monthly fee to subscribers. “I just want filmmakers to make the dough,” she said.

Other panelists were, from left, Slated CEO Duncan Cork, Maker’s Williams, producer Rick Rosenthal, me as the moderator, producer Jonathan Dana, Indieflix’s Andreen and director Shelton.

Have a look and share your views.